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University of Calgary community responds to domestic violence cases in the NFL

By Tommy Osborne, October 11 2016 —

Over the past few years, domestic violence allegations in sports have caused major controversy. In the National Football League, highly public cases such as the Ray Rice scandal in 2014 and the Josh Brown investigation this year have resulted in the league suspending players for their conduct off the field. Despite both Rice and Brown receiving in-game suspensions for these incidents and the NFL adopting a new personal conduct policy to address domestic violence cases in the league, many football fans still feel like the NFL isn’t doing enough to punish athletes for their behaviour.

Fans on the University of Calgary campus agree. This week, the Gauntlet spoke to U of C kinesiology professor William Bridel, along with students about the problem of domestic violence cases in the NFL and how the league has handled the issue.

“I think that the NFL and [commissioner] Roger Goodell in particular are more concerned with public image than they are about actually addressing the issue of domestic violence committed by NFL players,” Bridel said, who specializes in gender and sexuality in sport.

On July 24, 2014, former Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice was suspended for two games for assaulting his fiancée in an elevator in Atlantic City. The incident at the time caused a great deal of controversy and public outcry as it was believed that a two game suspension was too lenient given the nature of the crime.

Fourth-year geophysics student Dan Kent says suspensions are too lenient.

“To me, this says that they don’t actually care about [domestic violence], they’re just doing [the
suspension] for the sake of public opinion. They don’t actually care about domestic violence as an actual issue,” Kent said.

Following the public outcry over the Rice case, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell updated the league’s personal conduct policy so that any player charged with domestic violence would face a six game minimum suspension and a repeat offender would receive a lifetime ban. While the public was still upset over the poor handling of the Rice case, the new personal conduct policy showed that the NFL was willing to admit their mistake and strive to address the domestic violence issues that have plagued them for so long.

On Aug. 17, 2016, New York
Giants kicker Josh Brown was charged with over 20 incidents of domestic violence by his ex-wife, Molly Brown. However, despite the allegations Brown faced, he only received a one game suspension, due to what the
NFL claimed to be insufficient information from Molly Brown during the investigation.

While the NFL claims there was insufficient information for six-game suspension, the New York Daily News discovered 9-1-1 calls on consecutive days from Molly Brown, as well as a detailed account of actions that Molly provided to a detective.

Despite this, the NFL stood firmly by their actions and continues to claim that there is insufficient information in the case because Molly Brown didn’t cooperate.

“I feel like the NFL needs to put aside the player’s value for winning games and prioritize what the player has actually done,” first-year visual arts student Bianca Chiachia said.

The public sentiment seems to be that Josh Brown avoided harsh punishment because of his talent as a football player.

“I feel as a victim, you don’t want to have to go through that again,” Chiachia said. “So I find it understandable, especially since they only gave him one game — I feel like if she knew that would be the result, then she would’ve said more to get justice.”

The recent history of the handling of the domestic violence issues has made it harder for fans and the public to embrace the NFL as a part of their lives. This extends to U of C students.

“I don’t really view them as that high of an organization anymore,” first-year open studies student Alysha Creaghan said. “If they’re not doing the right thing for people that deserve the right thing, it’s not fair.”

While the NFL has failed numerous times to take a firmer stance on domestic violence, many football fans have responded to the issue negatively. This response shows that the conduct of high-profile athletes outside of the game is still an important element in sports.

Bridel said current strategies implemented by the NFL aren’t enough.

“[The NFL] has implemented something before the national combine, that if somebody has a record of domestic violence or sexual assault they were not allowed to participate in the national combine.” he said. “The NFL seemed to think this was a landmark and going to make all the difference, but that doesn’t actually prevent people from participating in regional combines and doesn’t preclude them from being drafted into the NFL to play. I think the NFL is really good at lip service, but not actually interested in making legitimate change.”

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